Two stories below from Greek mythology share common threads with the story of the ‘forbidden fruit’ on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The rabbinic Midrash on the Forbidden Fruit presents the most famous biblical story of the first humans in an entirely new light.
Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus were Titan gods that pledged their loyalty to Zeus, the Olympian king of gods. Zeus gave Prometheus and Epimetheus the job of creating the first creatures to live on Earth. Epimetheus formed the animals and gave each a special skill and form of protection. Prometheus molded man from the earth and Athena breathed life into the clay figure. In the bible, Adam is formed from earth and God breathes the spirit of life into him.
Prometheus has no forms of protection to give man since Epimetheus had already given them all away. Prometheus asked Zeus if he could let man have fire. Zeus refused. Fire was a powerful and dualistic element that was only for the gods. Prometheus defied Zeus and gave fire to man anyway. Zeus was irate, punishing Prometheus for giving a gift of godly power to a mortal and punishing all of humanity for accepting the forbidden gift of the gods.
Zeus created the first woman, Pandora (meaning “All-Gifts”), and imbued her with many qualities from the gods. He then brought Pandora to Epimetheus to be his wife. Prometheus had warned him not to accept gifts from Zeus, but Epimetheus was too smitten with Pandora to resist marrying her.
As a wedding present, Zeus gave Pandora a jar (mistranslated to “box”), but warned her never to open it. Pandora, who was innately curious, succumbed to her urge to open the jar. The evils of greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, and death flew from the jar out into the world. In a panic, Pandora hastily closed the jar, sealing hope inside, giving humans hope to survive the wickedness that had been released.
In the biblical story of the ‘forbidden fruit,’ eating it released the knowledge of evil and death upon the first humans, yet hope was never extinguished.
In a later and alternate story of Pandora, the jar contained not evils but blessings, which would have been preserved for humankind had they not been lost through the opening of the jar out of uncontrolled curiosity. Curiosity, or the epistemophilic drive, is associated with good or bad outcomes.
Cupid’s wife, Psyche, had a box containing a cream that bestowed perfect physical beauty, but she had to descend into the underworld to obtain it for her mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Psyche is despondent over this seemingly impossible task, when suddenly the tower she is on begins to speak. The Tower informs Psyche how to find the entrance to the underworld, avoid the hazards that will entrap her and humbly petition the Queen of the Underworld.
Following the instructions, she obtains the cream from Proserpina, the Queen of the Underworld. As soon as she reenters the light of day, Psyche can’t resist opening the box out of desire to exquisitely perfect her own beauty. Psyche, the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, was once a mortal princess of outstanding beauty. The cream was not intended for mortal blood-lines and when she opened it, she fell into a deathlike sleep.
With the help of Zeus, Cupid brought his wife to Olympus, where she was given nectar and ambrosia to make her immortal.
In the biblical story, a talking snake presents a mixed bag of potential outcomes. In this story, it’s a lone Tower that symbolizes solitude and the ability to see from afar overlooking everything.
In Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), the snake is a teacher that tells us when the inflation/adoration of Ego-Self is blocking us from communing with Source or the Divine Light. The serpent is a symbol of chaos, trickery and the Underworld, as well as a symbol of life, fertility, healing, medicine and rebirth.
The symbol of medicine (Caduceus), is a dual snake wrapped around a staff.
It’s a known fact that all medicines are poison, but not all poisons are medicine. All medicines were created on the basis of poison; otherwise they would not have a healing effect.
That is why a snake curled around a vessel with medicine is the symbol for healing used in medicine. This did not come from someone’s imagination, but from the foundation of all of nature.Laitman Kabbalah
In the teachings of the Jewish Sages (Chazal), all of God’s creation in Genesis (every fruit, animal, plant, tree, body of water, the sky, the soil, the celestial bodies) was created to heal or reconcile human ailments of mind, body and spirit.
The Jewish mystics said every aspect of the universe contains forces that can raise consciousness or obstruct it.
If you haven’t already, check out The Forbidden Fruit Midrash and all the comments to it that bring many enriching insights, inquiries and analogies to the conversation. Many thanks to all for your wise and wonderful dialogue.
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